Honest words from a working mum
20 months ago my little girl, Matilda, came into the world. I’ll spare you the details of the long labour, the rollercoaster of emotions and the sleepless nights (still ongoing, so might come back to that actually…).
I was lucky enough to spend a full year off on maternity leave. Each week jam packed with baby sensory classes, swimming, music groups, play dates and of course, coffee dates with other bleary eyed mums and miles and miles of walking to try to get my little nap-fighter off to sleep.
I loved it. And I will treasure each and every moment we spent together during that time. But there’s no denying I also spent some of that time wanting more…
I got tired. Tired of the conversations with other mums about sleep. Tired of thinking about routine and never quite nailing the balance between over-tired and under-tired. Tired of sitting in a dark room on the hottest day of the year trying to get my baby to sleep. Tired of never making my way through the washing and always having bottles in the sink, and puréed veg on the floor. Tired of feeling like my brain had slowly turned to mush. And as much as it pains me to say, a little bit tired of The Wiggles.
Because you know what, motherhood is TOUGH. It’s exhausting, it’s draining, it’s demanding. It’s giving yourself wholeheartedly to someone else when you actually have nothing else to give but then loving them more than you have ever loved anything else in the world. It’s forever feeling like this is the hardest thing you’ve ever done and the most incredible, best decision you’ve ever made, all at the same time. It’s living in one moment and never wanting it to end and then at other times counting down the minutes for the day to be over.
So why was it when I headed back to work after a year off, instead of being congratulated – “amazing, how great, how wonderful”, it was a pitying look of “oh no, how do you feel about going back to work?”. Cue the feeling of guilt and cue the look of slight shock when I replied “I can’t wait”.
Because despite the box that society sometimes puts you in as a woman, and as a mother, my ambition, drive and love for what I do didn’t fall out of me the day my baby came into the world.
Unfortunately it’s not always that simple. Despite two-thirds of working mums saying their level of ambition has stayed the same or increased since having children (from Careering into Motherhood report), a lot of employers aren’t as open to offering a promotion, pay rise and a four day working week after a year off on mat leave. And other companies aren’t as fortunate to have 3/5 women in the senior management team. (Thank you, Creative Spark).
Nursery fees are extortionate and despite it being complete and utter BULLSHIT, Pregnant Then Screwed reports that 54,000 women a year lose their job simply for getting pregnant. Plus 390,000 working mums experience negative and potentially discriminatory treatment at work each year. In fact, by the time a woman’s first child is 12 years old, on average her pay is 33% less per hour than a mans.
However the reality is, despite having an incredibly understanding and supportive employer, who allows me to balance mum and work life without question, it is still tough to do both, no matter how much you know you still want to belong in both worlds.
Trying to make sure you don’t give your child fish fingers for the third night in a row, trying to give 100% of yourself when you’re truly exhausted, trying to beat the rush hour traffic to get to nursery on time then logging back in to catch up on work post-bedtime, trying to focus after 3 hours sleep. Balancing the need to get proposals done, prep for client meetings, think strategically and keep on top of your inbox, with nursery calling to say your little one has a temperature (again)… Trying to fit in quality time with your husband, a workout, a washing load, the cleaning, a nail appointment and a catch up with friends. Trying to balance your child’s screen time with your own sanity. And trying to make sure you fill that one day off a week you get with your child – because don’t you know it’s not enough just to be present?? You have to do crafts and bake cakes, and go to soft play and get fresh air even if it’s pissing down with rain… You don’t have to do any of these things by the way, ignore Instagram.
But the mum guilt is real. Always worrying… am I a good enough Mum, should I really be sending them to nursery today, am I there enough, am I doing enough?! It’s hard to balance it all. It really is. But I wouldn’t change it for the world.
So, Mums, I see you. And I’m with you. So happy Mother’s Day. You’re killing it.